(Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
This past Thanksgiving my whole family gathered around the table and the talk amongst the meal didn’t center around my newly engaged sister or speculation on when I will get married, but on the Virginia couple that snuck into President Obama’s first Presidential State Dinner. It was a story that quickly dominated the slow holiday news cycle when I flew back to Massachusetts last Tuesday. It all started when Tareq and Michaele Salahi of Front Royal, VA decided to show up to the State Dinner welcoming Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.
According to Time, the couple drove up to the White House gates (which is allowed during State Dinners) and were turned away at first- but then hopped out of their car and walked to another entrance and somehow were allowed in by Secret Service. The surprising wrinkle was that the couple didn’t go around to this pedestrian entrance before getting their make-up touched up by the Bravo camera crew that was filming them. Bravo networks confirmed that the couple are in consideration for a spot in the upcoming Real Housewives of Washington DC.
Beats sending your kid up in a balloon I suppose.
Michaele and Tareq Salahi
As the couple worked the press cameras, they managed to mingle and snap photos with all of DC’s elite including Mayor Adrian Fenty, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, VP Joe Biden, ultimately working their way to shaking hands with President Obama in a receiving line. They also got to meet news anchors Katie Couric & Robin Roberts; as well as A.R. Rahman of Slumdog Millionaire fame.
After pulling off the party crashing of the decade, the couple posted photos of the event on their Facebook profile.
So who are Tareq and Michaele Salahi? Well they aren’t strangers when it comes to meeting famous faces. They have an entire Facebook photo album with the couple meeting Former President Bill Clinton, John McCain, Prince Charles, Richard Branson, Oprah, and President Obama at a previous event.
Michaele is a former Redskins cheerleader and Tareq is a board member on the Virginia Tourism board. State records link the couple in a family dispute over the ownership of Oasis Winery in Hume, VA. The story on their role in the winery is muddled even though their names are clearly on the website; the Warren County Report says that the couple are long disaffiliated with the winery.
It's ok guys, they know Oprah- they must be nice people.
The couple are not only wine socialites but are also heavily involved in polo. They founded America’s Cup of Polo, which links them to Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar- a possible inside connection for the two? Gawker explored the idea but Embassy denies any involvement. Fox News has even more information behind the couple.
The couple is laying low as Secret Service is trying to get in contact with them for questioning, the couple originally were booked on Larry King Live but the interview was canceled and the couple are quickly trying to sell their story.
There is a lot to say about America’s party crashers. The biggest debate is whether there was any threat to the President? Even though they went through magnetometers like every other guest, pundits are quick to say that a knife could of been taken off a table or perhaps anthrax could of been snuck in.
Maybe the couple could of coated their hands in poison like Mandy did when she tried to kill President Palmer in a season finale of 24.
I really enjoyed reading Michael Russnow’s piece on The Huffington Post that clearly reasons that The President is exposed more often than we like. Russnow is right, there are so many times that the President is exposed to people that aren’t given background checks- and in reality he wasn’t really in any danger.
So what about the couple? Gawker thinks that they are what America needs right now. Some think they should go to jail. Unless the secret service goes the “lying to a federal official” route it looks unlikely that will happen.
The bigger picture question is what does this say about society? With two extreme examples of what people will do to for fame, have we become a society that encourages more and more extreme acts for the spotlight?
UPDATE: The Salahis appeared on the Today Show yesterday where they not only claimed they were invited, but say that their lives have been ruined because of this ordeal